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Bill de Blasio may be emerging as a national figure with his criticism of a major pillar of the neo-con Educational reform movement.

Two days ago NYC Mayoral Candidate de Blasio (the frontrunner for Tuesday's Democratic primary) announced his support for a moratorium on 'co-locating' charter schools into buildings already occupied by neighborhood schools. If 'co-locating' sounds reasonable, well it's because the practice was given a deceptively anodyne title.

NYC co-locations are really hostile takeovers (sometime in whole, sometimes in part) of zoned neighorhood schools. Kids attending then'co-located' neighborhood schools are kicked out of their classrooms and forced into yet more crowded classrooms. Charter schools don't pay rent, often get the best facilities, and cherry pick the use of 'shared space'.  They often reject students who don't fit in their managers' model of the right sort of student.

This is de Blasio's strongest break yet with Bloomberg's failed schools policies and Bloomberg's ideological adherence to modern neo-con educational 'reforms' (like the No Child Left Behind Act).  De Blasio is showing himself to be a serious and progressive educational leader.  His call for universal daylong pre-k also shows his intent on taking pragmatic steps to strengthen NYC's schools.

Diane Ravitch, a national leader in the fight against the money wasting ineffective neo-con school reform movement praised de Blasio's statement on her website.

But the neo-cons won't quit.  Already a Koch brothers linked super-PAC is making major donations to the Joe Lhota, the expected Republic nominee. ("Politicker" story here.)

The charter school movement was originally a progressive idea - let local parents try to build local alternate schools.  Let a thousand classrooms bloom.  Fair enough.  

But this nice warm hippy concept has been hijacked and industrialized and capitalized and even securitized by the neo-cons.  Bloomberg (not parents) led the push for charter schools here. His cronies at the Department of Education led the revolution from above. By last year there were 125 elementary and middle school charter schools in New York City.  Charter schools now account for over 5% of NYC' students. But parent demand didn't create these schools; all were manufactured by administrative fiat. And almost none of these schools were built anew - the space was stolen from neighborhood schools.

Part of the national case made for charter schools (and the hysterical cries for reform) lies in the manufactured crisis in American schools. Pundits proclaim that our kids are behind kids from other countries.  In truth, when adjusted for class, American kids are equal to kids in countries like France, and Germany in test performance.  What brings the American average down is that we have a larger percentage of kids in the lowest class than those other countries.  Generally speaking, then, American schools are ok. The crisis is overblown.

Still (and consistent with this analysis) New York City (and other large cities) have a large number of kids from the lower end of the income spectrum.  At many schools in NYC 90% or more of the kids qualify for free lunch. And so the average kid in NYC public schools tests below national average.

So while its true New York City's kids generally don't perform as well as average American kids, it is deceptive and overkill to say all of America's kids need some giant intervention like NCLB. But national hysteria has propelled the neo-con con.

False Choice Part of the general public's nodding, abstract support for 'charter' schools lies in the notion of 'choice'.  Parents - neo-cons argue - deserve a 'choice' of schools, they argue. The choice of schools is a market for a service...blah, blah, blah.  This sort of tin-hat MBA reasoning has led to all sorts bad political choices - the notion that 'health care is a free market' is a similar conservative myth. (Try auctioning off your next emergency root canal.)

Actually almost  all parents would choose the same thing - a sound neighborhood school. And by subsidizing charter schools Bloomberg diverted billions of Dollars that could have made neighborhood schools stronger.

The promise of charter schools was that their existence as an alternative would give parents a choice.  The theory was that management of existing system would make improvements to compete with the new schools.   But in NYC parents aren't really given a choice. Billions of dollars of real estate has been expropriated from neighborhood schools and given to Charter Schools. The neighborhood schools are robbed in a deliberate effort to make the Charter Schools seem more attractive. It's only natural that when given the choice between a starved carcass of a neighborhood school or an a shiny new floor in a charter school, some parents choose the latter.  Bloomberg has his thumb on the scale. He has sabotaged neighborhood schools, not strengthened them.

Billions of Dollars meant for reducing class size in the poorest schools has been diverted elsewhere.  Billions that could have been spent building new schools in the most overcrowded districts have spent remodeling schools so that Charter schools could be 'co-located'.

A second pillar of the "educational reform" movement is Teacher's Unions are Bad Last week's diary "The Renewed War on The Veteran Teacher" details how charters are being used to drive experienced teachers out nationally, not just in New York City. And how charter schools aren't really better and often have inexperienced and perhaps unqualified teachers.

Impact on Election
De Blasio has challenged Democratic rival Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council, to pass a moratorium bill.  'Co-locations' for thirty more schools are on the agenda for the school board in October.  Of course the school board (renamed the "Panel for Educational Policy" in another newspeak attempt to make us think the Mayor has it all under control) is controlled by Bloomberg appointees and will approve this batch unless blocked by the City Council.

Quinn hasn't shown any real zeal to oversee the schools in the last eight years. I doubt she'll show much before Tuesday.

If de Blasio wins the Democratic nomination, they will call him 'a puppet of the Teachers' Union'. But the Teachers' Union endorsed Bill Thompson.  Hopefully the charge won't stick. Though hopefully teachers and parents will recognize the reasonableness of de Blasio's call for a moratorium, and his call for universal pre-k.

National Importance

De Blasio could be New York City's next Mayor.  He can use the office to not only reverse Bloomberg's failed educational policies but as a national podium.  He can fight to end NCLB, to end of the "Reign of Testing Terror", to end the misuse of Charter Schools, and for reasonable universal pre-k.

DINOs like Rahm Emanuel and NY Governor Cuomo still think they should talk about closing failing schools.  Neighborhood schools are being closed in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. Maybe if New Yorkers elect de Blasio we can also send a message to Congress and Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

If the goal of NCLB is really to help our least advantaged children to get a sound education, then who could be against it?  But the movement has been hijacked by ideologues who think we need to break unions first.  And many of those would-be union busters don't really care about the kids.  They just want to cut their own taxes.

I wish Bloomberg's reforms had worked. But they haven't. Ten years ago 75% of NYC eighth graders weren't performing at their grade level.  And sadly we see the same poor performance now.

I doubt this is the end of NCLB. but it might be the beginning of the end.

Originally posted to rexxnyc on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 05:53 PM PDT.

Also republished by New York City.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yep. He will have a big, big megaphone. (6+ / 0-)

    Rest assured.

  •  Really appreciate this diary, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude, ichibon, quill, Mostel26

    rexxnyc, and feel that it is timely for you to put it up in front of us, whether we're smackdab in New York or time zones away.

    De Blasio's position here is welcomed because it comes at a time when his national star is rising and because a lot of schools in the country have just begun their new seasons.

    There could be an awful lot of talk about schools around the supper table in these next several days.

  •  i'm just happy... (5+ / 0-)

    that de blasio is causing grief to the privileged. new york is a very rich city, and the rich can help finance it.
    tung sol

    a proud new yorker since 1976

    There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.--Oscar Levant

    by tung sol on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:22:51 PM PDT

  •  Excellent diary!! Sadly, I do not think nearly (6+ / 0-)

    enough New Yorkers are aware of this chicanery in our school system.

    Hopefully, de Blasio will win the primary with 40% and there will be no runoff. Then, we need some really big money to combat the Kochs.

    I, naively maybe, think that it will take a lot for NYers to forget the fare hikes and mismanagement of the MTA while Lhota was chairman. At least, one would think.

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:58:36 PM PDT

    •  Love your prediction on the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rubyr

      40 percent, rubyr.  

      'Will be tuned in next Tuesday evening to see some big smiles at De Blasio headquarters.

    •  Lhota isn't going to win (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rubyr, rexxnyc

      Voters on Staten Island are blaming him for the $15 toll on the Bridge plus most NYC residents feel 20 years of Republicons in City Hall are enough and that doesn't even include his attitude problems (I just did a diary on him but I don't know how to link it so if you put in Koch Bros you'll be able to find it) and wanting to murder 2 little kittens.  Not even the Koch $ are going to help him nor will Rudy.

      Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn.

      by Rosalie907 on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:19:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's how I feel but crazy shit goes on in (0+ / 0-)

        NYC politics. Just the fact that we have had Repug mayors for 20 years in a heavily Democratic area tells me that anything can go wrong. This fact alone, boggles the mind.

        However, I do think you are right and hope that you are.

        "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

        by rubyr on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 10:05:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  GOTV, GOTV.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rubyr

          "$15 Joe" will have a lot of cash behind him.

          The number of rich morons I talk to who cry about the 1/2 % tax is amazing.

          And there are lots of 'Reagan Democrats' out there.  de Blasio has gotta have a foreign policy.

          •  Well he does have the Koch Bros (0+ / 0-)

            Behind him and they have mega bucks and are spending it.  

            As for those rich morons, remind them that they can't take it with them and those Reagan Democrats should change their party line at the Board of Elections and really read how Reagan screwed them.

            Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn.

            by Rosalie907 on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 01:30:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I hope I'm right also (0+ / 0-)

          Keep in mind that Bloomberg won his 1st term because it was 2 months after 9/11 and Guiliani was still basking in his 9/11 glory.  The 2nd term he won because Dems couldn't get their act together and the 3rd term he won because Thompson didn't have a good field operation.  

          Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn.

          by Rosalie907 on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 01:24:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  A DeBlasio win would be huge for progressives (3+ / 0-)

    ...not just in NYC, but nationwide. The NYC Mayor's job, from what I've been told, is considered by many to be the second-toughest job in American politics, behind that of the President.

    I'm hoping that DeBlasio can win the primary (preferably without needing a runoff) and then go on to win the general election.

    My parents made me a Democrat. Scott Walker made me a progressive.

    by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 08:01:10 PM PDT

  •  John Liu was the first candidate to call (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rosalie907, rexxnyc, Mostel26

    for a moratorium on school closures and co-locations. And I will point out that when Cobble Hill Success Academy was in the process of co-locating into a building housing three schools (one for severely learning disabled high school aged students) de Blasio was absent from the process despite strong community opposition and it being practically in his former district. The DOE targets buildings with "failing" schools that have a large at risk population and purposely starve them of funds and resources even if they are turning around. What happens in Cobble Hill and also the Brandeis building on the UWS is that once Eva is given the go ahead a portion of the facilities (cafeteria, gym, library, bathrooms) need to be retrofitted to accommodate four year olds thereby making those common facilities unuseable by middle and high school students.

    The next mayor needs to fire Marc Sternberg immediately and also hire a chancellor with an educational background.

  •  and this too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rosalie907, Mostel26

    There are currently 30 schools designated for co-locations. I think once the PEP votes to approve them which they will then I am not sure what can be done to change that that would not be disruptive again.

    Many districts such as my own do not have zoned middle and high schools and applications and acceptances are similar to the medical matching residency process. For example for middle school parents and students tour schools they are interested in. Apps are due in December and students rank 8 choices in order of preference. However, if a child is not placed in a first or second choice it is unlikely they will get the third or fourth choice as those schools would be filled by kids who ranked them first or second.  Oh, and some have tests, auditions, interviews, and require certain scores on the fourth grade tests. You often don't learn about placement until May or June. Same thing basically for high school.

    So, parents need to know the status of schools and not be surprised and left scrambling. Or move to Bay Ridge or Queens where there are solid zoned schools.   And as much as it pains me, parents are depending on new charter schools.  

  •  One of the major problems (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fisher1028, rexxnyc, Mostel26

    With the NYC school system is the amount of non English speaking students and the fact that they are in classrooms with children where English is their prime language. I was speaking with a teacher at an event and when I stated that I was a baby boomer and we had large classes when I was in school and we all learned she explained that you have the same amount but about 3/4 of the students don't speak, read or write in English and that takes time away from students who do.  Most of the schools do not have separate classes for students aren't fluent in English and schools that do cater to these students are usually very far away and the child has to get there either by school bus or train.  

    Another problem is teaching to the test.  We had reading, writing and math plus language. art, gym, music and a couple of other subjects.  Now the students only learn based on a specific test.  This is hammered into the heads of children and they're so scared of not doing good on the test and having to repeat either the subject in summer school or the entire year.  

    Walcott is an ass and a Bloomberg lacky and Cathie Black was a bitch.  The way she spoke to parents of public school children made you want to smack her.  Luckily she was forced to resign but then Walcott was put in charge.

    Many students don't even go to regular schools.  They're taught in trailers and some do not even have windows let alone bathroom facilities.  This is our education system under Bloomberg who counts among his friends Michelle Ree and others that sware by charter schools.  

    Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn.

    by Rosalie907 on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:12:52 PM PDT

    •  My two kids now 15 and 19 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mostel26

      went to the same elementary school and had some of the same teachers but received vastly different educations. My eldest had arts integrated into the curriculum while my younger had test prep and more test prep. My eldest got away unscathed and never did test prep.  He attended our district "gifted and talented" middle school and went on to a selective high school that has a Regents waiver.  Honestly, if parents can afford it and their kid makes the cut they should go to private or parochial school if there are any left.

      That is another problem. The tiers of education available especially at the middle and high school levels. It is heartbreaking and I have heard kids say things like, "he isn't Beacon material but he should get into LaGuardia".

  •  I hope Bill (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remediator, Mostel26

    is as progressive as he sounds. We need more LIBERALS in office. I am sure tired of the conservatives fucking up our country

  •  NCLB end (0+ / 0-)

    In truth, NCLB has ended for most of the 50 states, we are now on RTTP or Race To The Top which is more invidious than NCLB and more expensive and dangerous.  It brings NCLB to a whole new level.  Don't ignore it because a Democratic president created it with a educational secretary whom he plays basketball with and used to be a professional player.  Arne Duncan's qualifications certainly was never in education.

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